Do I Need a Surveyor for Party Wall Agreement?
Once a Building Owner identifies that their work is classified as notifiable under the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, they are to start thinking about how to serve valid Party Wall Notice(s) on their Adjoining Owner(s).
It is not difficult to find example Party Wall Notices on the Government website. Using these as a template to serve notice of your proposed works on your Adjoining Owner is completely acceptable. So, what are the roles of a Party Wall Surveyor and in what situations are their involvement necessary?
First, we must differentiate the two main roles that a party wall surveyor can undertake; an agency role and a statuary role. An agency role is when the homeowner has a client-professional relationship with their Party Wall Surveyor. The Party Wall Act does not play a role in this relationship and the party wall surveyor simply acts on the instructions from the Owner. A statutory role is the responsibility that is defined and mandated by the law – the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. Tasked with a duty of resolving a dispute according to Section 10 of the Party Wall Act, the Party Wall Surveyor does not take instructions from the appointed Owner in this role. The appointed Party Wall Surveyor provides a clear record of the agreed-upon terms and conditions in the form of a Party Wall Award and conduct a home condition survey of the adjoining property before work begins. The report from the condition survey serves as a baseline for any potential claims of damage caused by the construction work.
There are many benefits for having a Party Wall Surveyor on board from the very beginning of the party wall process. Most Party Wall Surveyors can act as an agent and can serve the required Party Wall Notices on your behalf. Getting a party wall expert to produce these documents ensures the validity of the notice and can reduce the likelihood of a dispute arising or being able to act quickly once a dispute does arise. If a dispute does arise between a Building Owner and Adjoining Owner, the Party Wall Surveyor’s role automatically changes from an agency to a statutory role.
In a dispute, Building Owners and Adjoining Owners are able to appoint the same surveyor if so agreed. Alternatively, appointments of separate surveyors can be made if each party wishes to have their own surveyor acting on their behalf. Agreed or separate, Party Wall Surveyors’ duty is to act impartially and make neutral judgements to resolve the dispute. They can help to mediate between the parties involved, making the process smoother and maintaining good relations between neighbours.
To summarise, while it is possible for parties to come to an agreement without the involvement of party wall surveyors, especially for minor works, appointing a specialist surveyor will provide you with guidance and assurance that all legal requirements are met.